This post is the unedited, correction appended and updated copy of the movie review published on 24th of August 2012 at Dawn.com. The published versions are linked and attached at the end of the post.
To Nab a Tiger – Introduce a Mate, Then Watch Him Roar!
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Once upon a time, a “Tiger” nearly got loose. He got nabbed by the government (or to be precise its censor board), and was shipped back. End of story.
In Ek Tha Tiger, the new Salman Khan movie, still rollicking from renewed fandom set afire by Wanted (all the way down to the forgettable Ready and Bodyguard), we see a man on a mission: an Indian intelligence agent, gone rouge by love – an organic chemical reaction with emotional results that shows little of itself in producer Yash Raj’s mega-blockbuster that spins across multiple international locations without relevance; But then again who counts frequent flier miles when smitten. Right?!
Flying around the world was once a token aspect of nary all Bollywood masala movies. It cost a pretty bundle, brought tourism incentives, and served as measly window-dressing (the frames did exhibit a “wow”-factor with the smoky, swanky mountain-scapes now and then, though). Then Bollywood films started bombing (people somehow went wise to content, to the horror of frequent film producers). Now with countries promoting tourism and competitive production incentives, going abroad is the new “in” – even in Hollywood.
Opening with an action set-piece in Iraq, “Tiger” (both Mr. Khan’s codename and the film’s title) quickly sets the core-rules between country-vs.-country espionage games: If you track an enemy agent, kill him or buy him.
Tiger, who unconsciously (yet with a sly twitch in his brow) woo’s the neighborhood women in his off-duty hours, has been relishing his day-shift for the last twelve years. He reports back to his boss Shenoy (Girish Karnad), and hates the notion of a deskjob. His motivation is a tad more action-oriented (ergo, the film’s often inclination to have Mr. Khan jumping walls or wrecking trams).
After a successful stint, he is sent to Dublin to spy on a scientist (in a writer’s alias, of course), suspected of selling missile tech. There he keels-over Zoya (Katrina Kaif), the prof’s caretaker and student in the academy.
A song or two (the nearly above-average music is credited to Sohail Sen and Sajid-Wajid), a romantic dinner (can you pronounce chicken legs as “Tongue-ree”?) and a few actor-targeted puns later (“You’re too old for girl-friends” Zoya tells him in one scene), Tiger collapses into Bollywood sub-standardization.
The duo, after a slapdash story reveal, somehow now in deep romance, go rogue. Hot on their trails, in a separate yet singular-minded agenda, are the Indian and Pakistani intelligences. And so they run like the devil – from Istanbul to Havana – knocking down traffic in cartoonish violence, stopping for a breather, some lovey-dovey cuddles and those indispensible love songs (the lonesome, and hectically choreographed hit, Masha’Allah hits the movie at the end credits – far too late to do any good).
Tiger’s lackluster divergence from the moment the leads elope governments, stops a believable forward momentum anchored to Mr. Khan’s character. The actor – shining, performing, and very much grounded, rocking his two-piece suit – rules the movie. But he’s the only one (Ms. Kaif’s Zoya is still too cutesy-Barbie in the first act).
Forget the un-lively tonal preset fixed by director Kabir Khan (ye of Kabul Express and New York fame) and co-screenwriter Neelesh Mishra. Mr. Khan’s powerhouse charisma is enough to tug the movie to worldwide “financial” success (Tiger was made at $13.5 million, and is so far at $28 million and climbing).
Critical success? Now that’s a whole new ball game.
Produced and Released by Yash Raj Films, based on a story by Aditiya Chopra, Ek Tha Tiger is running worldwide. It has not been given censor certification in Pakistan, because its script openly names, and oft times disses, both countries intelligence agencies to parodying degrees of insipidness. Spy games are hard, but ludicrous they’re not.
The published copy is at: http://dawn.com/2012/08/24/movie-review-ek-tha-tiger/
And it looks like this: